Monday, February 1, 2010

Graphic Novels, Creativity, and the Joy of Reading.

Does it matter what your children read?

Recently both of my sons have become obsessed with graphic novels. Everything from "Batman" to "Bone" to "Calvin and Hobbes." I don't have anything against graphic novels or traditional comic books. I have enjoyed reading a few myself (there is a collection of comic books in my garage.) Up until recently though my nine-year-old son was reading "Wayside School", "Tom Swift," "Harry Potter," "The Chronicles of Narnia," and just about everythign from Andrew Clements. My five-year-old who is still learing to read loved storytime with "Ready, Freddy!," "The Curious Garden," and "Stuart Little." Neither child is a reluctant reader so I never even considered comic books and graphic novels as options for story time.

Then my children went to school and began coming home with graphic novels from the library. They were reciting stories, playing games, and pretending all in the realm of the graphic novels they were reading. Instead of being disappointed they were not reading large impressive chapter books I needed to look at the situation from a differnt angle. My kids were jazzed about literature. They were excited to use their imagination in a differnt way. They wanted to create their own books. That's pretty cool.

The early books were often just scribbles on paper with no words. The hieroglyphics only meant something to the nine and five-year-old minds of the boys who created them. But I was proud of the creativity and effort. Before long they were binding upwards of 10 illustrated pages together with tape. The stories were rudimentary, but followed a basic plot. Best of all the stories generally had nothing to do with the graphic novels they had been reading.

So here's the lesson to be taken from this. It doesn't matter what style of book your children are reading, as long as they are reading and ecited about it. I read recently (I need to find where I read it) that people who read were more engaging, made more money, and had better qualities of life than people who didin't read. Now who doesn't want that for their children.

While we're on the topic of graphic novels, I came across this fun piece from about the process brother and sister team Matthew and Jennifer Holm take in creating a "Babymouse" graphic novel for kids. Check it out, it really is quite entertaining:

You may also want to try a couple activities with your kids.

Begin by drawing 10 - 12 squares. Make sure your squares are large enough to include a picture. You may just want to use single pages. Leave space below the squares for a couple sentences. Talk to your kids about a character. Maybe it is your child's favorite stuffed animal or lego guy. Then ask them what the story is about. What happens to the character? To get things going you write the first sentence. Let your children write the rest and have them draw pictures in each square to accompany the story.

Try a different angle on this same basic activity. Once you have the 12 squares prepared. Draw pictures in each square, alternating with your children. Think of it as telling a viusal story, line by line. Don't talk to each other about the story, just see where you and your kids take it. Once all the pictures are completed have your kids go back and write in captions, like a comic book to tell the story.

You'll have a great time, a great memory and you may be surprised to see what stories you create together.

1 comment:

  1. My mother sent me a comment via email and I wanted to include her thoughts. Many of you might feel the same way. She wanted to know if a graphic novel or two inspired creativity, or just related the information in a simpler manner to reach reluctant readers or kids with little imagination.

    I would say that, just like any literature genre you will find the good, the bad and the ugly. Graphic novels are designed to be much more indepth than comics. They build characters, plots and subplots. A good graphic novel uses illustrations as much as words to develop the story, setting and characters. Yes, comic books and grpahic novels can help get reluctant readers excited about reading. Yes, children with little imagination may be inspired to use their imagination the next time they play a game or read a "regular" chapter book. But good and voracious readers with imagination can still get something out of them too. Obviously if your child is reading nothing but supoer hero comics and fantsy graphic novels you may want to steer them in a differnet direction. But the introduction fo a couple good graphic novels for kids can also help spur and excite even the best reader. It's sort of like the "Wizard of Oz." there was nothing wrong with black and white. The stories were still good, and viewers could see what the outifts looked like in their imagination. But then we were shown everything in Technicolor. The next time we saw a black and white movie our imaginations were inspired to think, "What if?"

    My response is dragging on so I hope this answer helps.